When choosing to delay or prevent pregnancy, you have a lot of options. Birth control, or contraception, is available in a variety of forms, from daily pills to permanent surgical procedures. When deciding what type is right for you, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Your health
  • How frequently you engage in sexual activity
  • Whether you want to have children in the future

Types of Birth Control

  • Natural family planning: Avoiding sexual intercourse or using an alternate form of birth control on days when you’re most likely to get pregnant
  • Barrier methods: Prevents sperm from getting to the egg; includes contraceptive sponges, diaphragms and condoms
  • Hormonal methods: Keeps women’s ovaries from releasing eggs; includes pills, patches, injections and vaginal rings.
  • IUDs: Devices which are implanted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy
  • Sterilization: Permanently prevents a woman from becoming pregnant or a man from being able to get a woman pregnant
  • Emergency contraception: Also known as the “morning after pill”; taken by a woman after having unprotected sex to prevent her from becoming pregnant

Where you get birth control depends on what type you’re planning to use. Barrier methods like condoms and emergency contraception are both sold over the counter. Diaphragms and IUDs must be fitted by a doctor. Most hormonal methods require a prescription, but some states—like Oregon and California—allow pharmacists to prescribe the pill. And sterilization is a surgical procedure.

Condoms are the only birth control type that also protect against STIs (sexually transmitted infections). When deciding on whether or not to use condoms, it’s important to weigh your risk based on your number of sexual partners and frequency of sexual activity.

If you aren’t sure which type is right for you, your primary care doctor or gynecologist can walk you through your options and the pros and cons for each.